Now that the 2022 NFL draft is officially in the books, the biggest questions left to be answered this offseason involve the eventual landing spots for Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo.
Even though both quarterbacks would probably have liked an answer by now, there could be plenty of suitors as we get closer to the start of training camp. It also would seem to benefit them that the incoming crop of rookie quarterbacks seemed to be regarded much lower than even pre-draft prognosticators believed.
This quarterback class was widely regarded as one of the weakest in recent memory going into the draft. As it turns out, Kenny Pickett was the only one taken in the first two rounds when the Pittsburgh Steelers took him at pick No. 20.
Desmond Ridder (Atlanta Falcons), Malik Willis (Tennessee Titans) and Matt Corral (Carolina Panthers) didn't even get selected until round three. Per ESPN Stats & Info, this is the third time in the past 30 years only one quarterback was selected in the first two rounds.
Given the limited enthusiasm for what this rookie class can do in 2022, Mayfield and Garoppolo could be attractive trade options in the coming months.
Garoppolo's situation is more complicated right now. He had shoulder surgery in March, and it's unclear when he will be cleared to do football activities. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo (h/t NFL.com's Nick Shook) reported the plan is for him to be throwing "well ahead" of training camp.
Mayfield also had surgery in January to repair a torn labrum in his left (non-throwing) shoulder that he injured during the 2021 season. ESPN's Jake Trotter reported he is expected to be cleared before training camp.
Both players have one year remaining on their current contracts. Their salaries could present a problem for interested teams.
Per ESPN's David Newton, the Panthers and Cleveland Browns were talking about a trade involving Mayfield during Day 2 of the NFL draft on Friday. Those discussions broke down when the teams couldn't agree on how much of Mayfield's $18.9 million salary Cleveland would pick up.
The Panthers ultimately acquired the 94th overall pick from the New England Patriots via trade to select Corral.
Despite how things reportedly broke down between the Panthers and Browns over Mayfield's salary, it's still hard to fathom that Carolina will enter the 2022 season with Sam Darnold and Corral as its top two quarterbacks.
Darnold has thrown for 18 touchdowns and 24 interceptions in the past two seasons combined.
B/R's Nate Tice wrote in his scouting report for Corral that he "needs a lot of work with timing, anticipation and the true quarterback processes" before being ready to play in the NFL.
Meanwhile, Garoppolo is owed $24.2 million this season. He also has a $26.95 million cap hit.
Jonathan Jones of CBS Sports wrote on Thursday he believes Garoppolo could end up with the Panthers eventually.
"I don't get the impression anyone in Charlotte is pressed to bring Mayfield on right now (he was never getting traded before the draft), and I don't believe the Panthers view him as a personality fit in the locker room over Garoppolo," Jones said.
The Panthers do have the most available cap space in the NFL ($30.9 million), so they could bring in either Mayfield or Garoppolo at their full salary if they wanted.
Neither the Browns nor San Francisco 49ers are operating from a position of leverage. Mayfield has made it clear he wants out of Cleveland, and the team's acquisition of Deshaun Watson would seem to increase the urgency to move on.
If the Panthers want either player, they are playing this very wisely by not making a rash decision. There will come a point when San Francisco or Cleveland blinks on its trade demands, and a deal comes together.
Another potential option for either quarterback could be the Seattle Seahawks, though there could be hurdles to making that happen.
At the very least, head coach Pete Carroll isn't anticipating anything happening quickly if the Seahawks do trade for a veteran:
After acquiring Drew Lock from the Denver Broncos as part of the Russell Wilson trade, conventional wisdom suggested that Seattle would pursue a quarterback at some point in the draft.
The Seahawks certainly had plenty of chances to do that. They made three picks on Day 2 of the draft before the second quarterback of the draft came off the board, but they elected to go in different directions.
Seattle would need the Browns to eat some of Mayfield's salary to fit him under the cap. The team currently has $12.9 million in cap space.
It doesn't sound like Seattle is eager to bring in Mayfield, based on a report from NFL Network's Ian Rapoport:
Garoppolo could be difficult for the Seahawks to acquire in a trade because it seems unlikely the 49ers would want to give a division rival a starting quarterback.
Perhaps we should start believing Pete Carroll when he said the Seahawks "loved" Drew Lock when he was available in the 2019 NFL draft.